Next to St Alfege’s church in Greenwich is a passage, not surprisingly named after the church, but that’s a relatively recent name for a much older path.
The passage runs around the edges of the church, and there’s been a church on this site since medieval times, and reputedly marks the spot where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Alfege was killed by the Danes. The current church building is by Nicholas Hawksmoor and dates to 1711-14 after the old one fell down.
There’s been a path around the church to separate it from the next door neighbours, even when the neighbours were still fields, and a pub, but at the time it was called, unsurprisingly, Church Passage.
In the early days this would have been just a muddy footpath, but as the docks brought workers to Deptford and Greenwich, the area started to be built up, and it wasn’t long before the current layout of the passage started to emerge.
What had for centuries been Church Passage changed its name to St Alfege Passage in 1938. Shortly afterwards, the grandly named Parochial Church Council Of The Ecclesiastical Parish Of St. Alfege, Greenwich was given a bequest and in 1947 bought the row of houses, and still owns them today, renting them out to generate revenue for the church.
The passage wasn’t the genteel residential route it is today though, with warehouses mixed in amongst a row of fine Georgian terraced houses. A former church hall has a very 1970s look to it. At the far end is the locally famous B&B at number 16, which is run by the retired actor, Robert Gray.
It’s a popular passageway, making getting photos of it empty a challenging task, but that’s part of the delight of alleys that they are still such useful yet often little regarded paths around urban areas.